The initial encounter with 80s music remains etched in my memory. The surge of excitement and sheer pleasure that washed over me, accompanied by the allure of those enchanting vintage tones, still sends shivers down my spine to this very day.
Back then I had no idea, how that sound was created, but I knew I had to learn to play it. I started doing some research and finally came across chorus pedals. I cannot fully express how happy I was because I could master those tones with some skills and a pedal at hand.
A lot of time has passed since those rudimentary steps into the music world and throughout those years, I was lucky to find the best chorus pedal for my music. I will leave it a secret at this point so that you can choose yours without being influenced by my preferences. If you want to find your soulmate of the pedals, keep on reading, because this article has all the information you need.
What’s The Best Chorus Pedal
When it comes to Jim Dunlop, you simply can’t make a mistake. From the very start, MXR has earned a stellar reputation for producing top-notch pedals, a standard they continue to uphold to this day. The M234 is a perfect example of its excellence. This all-analog pedal utilizes the advanced Bucket Brigade Device (BBD) circuitry, ensuring a distinct and textured tone that leaves no room for disappointment. With its Rate control, you can adjust the speed of the chorus and make it as slow/fast as you want. Level modifies the amount of chorus applied to your signal, while Depth gives some dimension to it and intensifies the effect. MXR M234 offers additional Low/High EQ settings, which not only control the frequencies of the chorus but also let you alter the frequencies that will not be affected by the chorus. All these simple and cool features are combined in a sturdy pedal, offering you an array of tones and the sound, which will please even the pickiest player. It’s one of the best chorus pedals you can find.
- Wide range of modulation
- Sweet sound of 80s
- Can work with everyone (from beginners to experienced professionals)
- Natural tones
- The LED light might blind you
- Might not be suitable for all kinds of chains
If you are an analog type-of-guy, you might not like this one, but let me tell you, even though CE-5 is digital, it knows how to deliver quality sound. This pedal applies a deep chorus to your audio signal without making it sound fake and muddy. It provides all the control you need with simple knobs: Effect Level adjusts the amount of wetness added to your initial signal; Rate allows you to control the amount of vibrato in the sound; Depth modifies the pitch of your signal, creating a unique tone; Filter is a combination of bass and treble controls, making it even easier to craft the perfect sound. It goes without saying that BOSS CE-5 is durable as hell and will last you for a lifetime. If you are looking for something simple but full of control options, this pedal will be a perfect fit for you.
- Chorus effect can be easily adjusted
- Easy to use
- Powerful sound
- It is digital (in case this is an issue for you)
- Drains the battery quite quickly
EHX Small Clone is as simple as it can get. It has a single knob and a switch, which monitor different features of the tone. Depth controls how intense you want your chorus to be, adding presence and distinction to it. If you use its maximum settings, you will achieve a more textured sound. Rate modifies the speed of the effect. The higher the settings, the faster the tones. EHX Small Clone is linked to the name of Nirvana. Their famous “Come As You Are” was created using this pedal. Despite its comfort zone, the Small Clone has the ability to venture beyond and enable you to produce various effects and sound types. Depending on your usage, it can exhibit impressive versatility. Thanks to its analog circuitry, this pedal delivers distinctive warbly and natural tones, making it truly stand out among your collection.
- Quality sound
- Adds thickness to your tone
- Not very sturdy
- Has a slight pop when activated
Just like many TC Electronic pedals, Corona Mini Chorus comes with a built-in TonePrint technology, that can be activated using the free app. This feature allows for an even wider range of effects and gives you a lot of versatility. You can even combine it with a TonePrint Editor for maximum control. Corona is very easy to adjust: you can change the speed of the chorus effect by twisting the Speed knob, FX Level modifies the interaction of dry and wet signals, while Depth adds dimension to your tone. The best feature about this pedal is its analog dry-through, which keeps your original tone natural, with added warble. Even though Corona’s sound might be a bit thin for some, whether you like this pedal or not depends on your preferences and the amount of attention you pay to your chorus effects.
- Great for acoustic guitars
- Wide range of features (thanks to TonePrint)
- Compact design
- The sound is a bit thin
- Cannot switch between factory features and TonePrint
Truetone V3 H2O is a combination of so many things, you will not believe your eyes when you take your first look at it. You will be even more surprised when you plug this baby in because it’s one of the best chorus pedals. It has two “sections”, one that is responsible for chorus modulation and the other, that controls delay and its effects. The best part about this pedal is that both sections have individual circuits, which allow you to use them separately or simultaneously. You can take over delay with Delay, repeat, and Level knobs (typical controls that do not need further explanation) while adjusting the chorus with Speed, Width, Depth, Tone, and Intensity. The chor-Vib knob offers a fascinating twist: it grants you the option to select between Chorus and Vibrato, or seamlessly blend them to craft a one-of-a-kind sound. Undoubtedly, this pedal’s versatility and exceptional performance seem almost too good to believe!
- Extremely versatile
- Quiet operation
- Some might find it over-complicated
- Large size
Now, let’s get back to Dunlop and its MXR pedals. We have already discussed the quality of the brand, which means we can jump right into the features and capabilities of M134. This pedal has two sets of knobs. The first one serves as a two-band EQ since it allows you to modify the amount of Bass and Treble in your sound. The other one controls various aspects of the chorus itself. With simple (Intensity, Width, and Rate) knobs, you can tailor the effect to your sound. Some picky guitarists might not like the rudimentary controls, but if you ask me, the main thing is how they perform and they perform well. M134 Stereo Chorus delivers transparent, organic, and natural sound that can be layered with other effects in your chain. What’s not to love?!
- Stereo output (allowing you to plug in two amps simultaneously)
- Versatile effects
- Warm sound
- Large size
- Not for those who are looking for simplicity
When it comes to inexpensive pedals, we cannot skip through BEHRINGER. It has proven to produce one of the most affordable and best chorus pedals, that tend to have pretty good tone as well. Ultra Chorus is not as profound and durable as more high-end pedals, but the sound it delivers is still quite good. In terms of design, this pedal is a copy of BOSS, looking like its twin sister. Despite its simplicity, the Ultra Chorus proves to be highly user-friendly, offering adjustable sound parameters with its Depth, Rate, Level, and Tone knobs. While it may not revolutionize your musical experience, it performs admirably, especially when considering its affordable price. Managing your expectations is key; if you don’t anticipate groundbreaking effects, this pedal will undoubtedly prove to be a valuable asset to your setup.
- Does what it supposed to
- Produces clear tones
- Extremely affordable
- Made with plastic
- Tone is not very powerful
Speaking of affordability, here’s another budget-friendly model, but this time from Ibanez. I won’t say anything about the brand and their pedals, since we already know how great they are. Their Mini-series sports some incredible gear, including the Mini Chorus we’re about to discuss. This bad boy comes in such a tiny enclosure, that it will fit on any pedalboard. Man, it will even fit on my palm and I have small hands (smaller than you’d think). Though such a small body is a great virtue, it can be a downside as well. The knobs are pretty small as well and since everything is shoved on a tiny surface, some of the features are hard to access. Regardless, once you get the hand of this pedal, you’ll have the chance to unveil its full potential. You’ll be able to see how beautiful its sound is – due to its wide range, it can be used in moderation or excessively. It won’t color your tone too much (unless you want it to) and provide you with dimensional, rich results. Ibanez Mini Chorus is too good to be true, especially for the given price. It deserves a shot, don’t you think?
- Extremely well built
- True analog sound
- A bit too small
- The knobs might be hard to access due to their size
Ensemble King is a super compact pedal, that will take a very small space on your pedal board. Do not let the size fool you, though. It offers just as much power and features as a normal-sized pedal would. It comes with Level, Depth, and Rate knobs. Surprisingly, Level does not control the volume of the output, it simply adjusts the amount of chorus added to your signal. Depth does exactly what the name indicates (controls the depth of the signal), while Rate sets the speed of the effect. Additionally, Ensemble King features a true bypass and does not suck your sound when switched off. The tone it delivers is quite vibrant and clean. I would say this pedal is a great choice if you are looking for a tiny addition to your pedal board.
- Extremely compact
- Great sounding
- Easy to adjust
- Limited selection of effects
- Would be better if the knobs were marked
Donner is renowned for producing inexpensive pedals, that have good sound and build-quality. Tutti Love is no exception. It comes in a compact design and features true bypass. It has only three knobs on the interface: the typical Level, Rate, and Depth controls. The best part about this pedal is its analog nature. Due to this feature, Tutti love delivers a very natural, warm tone. The effect it applies to your sound might be too dark for certain people, but it works pretty great with my bright guitars. If you have limited space on your pedal board and are looking for an affordable pedal, Tutti Love might be the one for you. It is also true that the size most of us find appealing might be a drawback for others, particularly, gig-lovers. On the whole, this pedal does what it is supposed to beautifully.
- Metal body
- Quite affordable
- True bypass
- Quality tone
- Not 100% transparent
- Not as powerful as many high-end pedals
What is a chorus pedal?
If you have ever listened to a mandolin or a 12-string electric guitar, you have already heard the sound of a chorus. Basically, it is a combination of two identical signals with a slight alteration in pitch. Chorus enables you to create a thicker sound that has more texture and definition to it. In order to produce this effect, initial tone is copied, the pitch is altered subtly and the two tones are merged back together. Chorus pedals do the same thing in the form of stompboxes, they combine different signals to create a distinctive sound. Even though chorus pedals are not everybody’s cup of tea, they offer a unique vintage sound at the click of the footswitch. If you fall in love with this one, it will be hard to go back.
How to choose a chorus pedal?
Chorus pedals do tend to be nostalgic. They will force you to float back in time and take a new look at 80s music. This vintage-style effect offers a lot of flexibility. It can be utilized on the pristine channel of the amp, but it will work wonders along with distortion as well. This way, you can add extra swirl and movement to your sound. You can apply as much chorus as you want by altering between different techniques, for instance, you can easily start with a barely audible sweep and end up with a freakish effect resembling Leslie sound. Chorus pedals can act as splitters as well, allowing you to send audio signal to two amps simultaneously. The ways of utilization of these bad boys can be numerous, but before getting to that part, first, you have to choose a proper one. Here are some things you should keep in mind when looking for a chorus pedal.
Fit your pedal to your sound!
Oftentimes, we become so steeped in choices and technical issues that we forget what truly matters. No matter how fancy, well-equipped or versatile is the pedal, if it does not compliment your music, all your efforts will go up in smoke. Plugging in your favorite chorus pedal must be the most exciting thing for you, otherwise the music you create will be deprived of passion and drive. What I am saying is that before going into details about features and capabilities, you should consider what you want to achieve with your music and what role does a chorus have in achieving that goal.
After you have done that, trust me, you have saved yourself a lot of money and effort. For me, the next step is to choose between different styles of pedals according to your music. I will go through several of them in order to give you more information and help you understand what you are looking for.
Analog or Digital
The famous battle between the two continues in the world of chorus pedals as well. There are guitarists who prefer analog to digital and vice versa. We come to ask: which one has a better sound? There is no right or wrong answer here. Digital chorus is quite different from Analog chorus, which makes comparing them nonsense. The former gives you more precise and clean tones, while the latter delivers sweet, warm and natural sounds.
The market does not agree with this concept, though. There is an abundance of analog chorus pedals, due to the preference of its circuit. Digital chorus pedals are harder to find, especially if you are looking for unique features. But there is still a chance to purchase them, you will just have to be more determined.
I do believe with my heart that there are no rules when it comes to music. No one said you have to choose between these two. I am pretty sure you can figure out a way to use both or at least practice will teach you which one is better. One way or another, we are talking about your music here and you can do anything you want with it.
This is my least favorite part of the discussion. If I were given an opportunity to create a perfect world, you would be able to have any device you wanted without having to care about the price. But unfortunately, this is a subject that we cannot avoid. The plethora of choices gives you the opportunity to find your soulmate in every single price range. Just shape your requirements according to your budget and do not expect too much from a 20$ pedal. Mostly, all of them do what you pay for (regardless of the price). And after all, the main thing is to get the tone right. Do some research, mix, match, compare the pedals within the same price range and you will definitely find the best one, which suits your needs and does not break the bank.
Mono, Stereo, Boutique and Factory
Now, once again, what you choose from these four is completely up to you. But there are some technical issues that you should keep in mind. First things first, choosing between Mono and Stereo is quite an easy job if you ask me. It all depends on how you play your music. If you keep it simple and do not overcomplicate your chain with an effects loop, a mono-chorus pedal will be just right for you. But if you are more of an adventurer and you like to explore all the sonic possibilities available, then you should probably go with Stereo. It lets you split your signal between two amps and is just more versatile in general.
Choosing between boutique and factory pedals is purely a technical matter. The downside to purchasing boutique pedals is that if you are on the road and it breaks, there is a high chance you will not be able to find the same model in the city. You will be left with no options for substitution, going back to factory favorites in the end. If you adore the sound of your boutique chorus pedal, purchase a backup just in case. When it comes to factory pedals, they can be easily replaced in almost every city with little to no effort. Consider these factors and choose your pedal accordingly.
In conclusion, it can be easily said that chorus pedals are on the subjective side. You either like them and adapt them to your music or consider them as mere blast from the past. I have seen so many people overlook them in terms of sonic capabilities but I have seen same people listening to my music with their jaws dropped. One way or another, chorus pedals played their role in shaping the music history and they did so by delivering unique sounds. The fact that they still linger on the pedal boards speaks for itself. Go out there, purchase a chorus pedal and decide for yourself.